From batting to battling salivary gland cancer

FOX 51
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 9:33am

Hall of Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn's death was shocking for many people, dead at 54.

Gwynn shined through his 20-year career with the San Diego Padres. He was diagnosed with a salivary gland cancer back in 2010. I'm sure the first thing comes to mind is- chewing tobacco led to his cancer.

Some reports say he had mouth cancer, the type of cancer he had was not in the mouth.

"He had a salivary gland tumor basically that started in his parotid gland which is the largest salivary gland and it's on the side of your face in the cheek area where they have lumps," said Oncologist Dr. Donald Richards of Texas Oncology at Trinity Mother Frances.

It's reported Gwynn's death was linked to chewing tobacco throughout his career, but doctors say Gwynn did not have mouth cancer.

Dr. Richards says most salivary gland tumors are benign. "Apparently he had episodes of recurrent tumors that appeared to transform in to much more of an aggressive histology."

We asked Dr. Richards if chewing tobacco has any association with salivary gland cancer. "Salivary gland cancers aren't as strongly linked to tobacco use as some other types of cancers."

From batting in the Major League to battling cancer it sparks concern on any playing field on whether chewing tobacco is linked to the cancer Gwynn had.

The head baseball coach at UT Tyler Chris Bertrand says chewing is rooted in the game and a big part of culture. "I think the biggest thing is you have to educate people on what the risks are and what the dangers are." And coach Bertrand says he makes that part of his game. "At the end of the day it's a personal decision, but we feel that's our main role, and it is to make sure they understand if you make that decision to continue to do it, these are the risks that you are running." 

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